Burlington elder law attorneys provide assistance with the estate planning process and help individuals to determine who should inherit their money or property. Attorneys can also provide guidance to those who stand to inherit money or property when a relative or a friend has passed away.
One issue that attorneys can help with is in determining what a surviving spouse is entitled to after his or her husband or wife has passed away. The inheritance rights of a spouse will be determined based on a number of different factors, including what the deceased spouse specified in his or her will or whether intestacy law applies because there was no will. If intestacy law applies, there are also other factors that matter in determining a spouse’s inheritance, including whether or not there are children from outside of the marriage.
Both intestacy law and laws on passing assets though probate recognize and account for the fact that a spouse usually inherits from his or her deceased husband or wife. For example, federal estate tax is not charged when a person leaves assets to his or her spouse, but could be charged if money or property is left to someone else. There are also laws that actually give rights to a surviving spouse to make a claim to some part of a deceased spouse’s estate – even if the deceased spouse left most or all of his or her assets to someone else.
What is a Spousal Elective Share?
Traditionally, in Vermont, laws called dower and curtesy applied protect surviving spouses. Dower and curtesy established a legal rule that a spouse could claim a part of a deceased spouse’s estate, even if the will specified something different. Traditionally, dower referred to the claim the surviving wife was entitled to make. Curtesy referred to the claim that a man was allowed to make. In many states, the amounts for dower and curtesy differed.
Vermont repealed dower and curtesy, as a number of other states have done. However, this does not mean a surviving spouse can just be disinherited and inherit nothing if his or her ex leaves assets to someone else. A spouse can claim a spousal elective share of the deceased person’s estate after the death of a husband or wife.
When a husband or a wife claims a spousal elective share under Vermont law, that husband or wife waives whatever inheritance (if any) was provided to him or her under the terms of the deceased person’s last will and testament. The surviving spouse instead elects to take a set share of the estate – the spousal elective share – which is set at half of the balance of the probate estate after subtracting for the payment of expenses and claims.
This means a husband or wife could leave money to someone else in his or her will… but the surviving spouse could elect to take 50 percent of the estate despite what the will says and the law would generally entitle that surviving spouse to that money and property.
How Can Burlington Elder Law Attorneys Help?
Burlington elder law attorneys can provide assistance with creating an estate plan that takes into account the rules for a spousal elective share. If your spouse has passed away and you want to claim an elective share of his or her estate, our legal team can also assist you with this process since you must make an affirmative claim in probate court.
A lot of money could be at stake when a husband or a wife passes away and a surviving spouse decides to claim an elective share of the probate estate. You should not hesitate to get the right legal help in order to protect your inheritance and your financial security.
Getting Help from Burlington Elder Law Attorneys
Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC helps clients with all different types of estate planning and probate issues, including the creation of a plan that allows you to control who inherits. We also provide guidance in protecting an inheritance that was left to you, either by making a claim with the probate court or by fighting against competing claims made to the court that could reduce the assets that you receive.
To find out more about how Burlington elder law attorneys can help you with all legal issues related to the spousal elective share or related to other inheritance laws in the state of Vermont, join us for a free seminar. You can also give us a call at (802) 879-7133 or contact us online to get personalized advice.